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Poetry / Spoken Word

Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge
22nd January 2016
over land

Emma Lee introduces a new anthology from Five Leaves Publications.

Over Land Over Sea poems for those seeking refuge” is an anthology of 101 poems that explores issues around being a refugee from what prompted people to leave their country, the journeys undertaken, issues faced on arrival in a new country, the traumas and difficulties faced and media reaction. Some poets wrote from experience, either their own or from older family members who had been refugees. Some poets touched on the relative privilege of being able to welcome refugees. All poems were written with sensitivity and without being gloomy, looking to the positives in acts of kindness and assistance.


Ambrose Musiyiwa’s idea for an anthology was triggered by media reaction to the current situation which used language to dehumanise refugees. A crowdfunder was launched on 2 September 2015 to raise funds to cover printing and distribution costs with the publisher Ross Bradshaw, typesetter Pippa Hennessy, editors and poets contributing their work and time for free. (Ambrose is pictured above at the book’s launch in Leicester)

The crowdfunder was successful, meaning that all sales of the anthology will go directly to three charities: Medecins Sans Frontieres, Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham Refugee Forum. A total of 204 poems were received from the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Sweden, Iraq, Australia and the USA. We got in touch with local refugee creative writing groups as well as Exiled Writers Ink to encourage submissions from refugees. From these 101 poems were selected for the anthology which was published on 1 December.

There have been several launch events in Leicester and Nottingham with plans for events in London and Loughborough in the pipeline. Contributors have organised local readings at spoken word events, places of worship and for interested groups.

Siobhan Logan, one of the editors, says: “Like other people, I felt distraught about the scale of the unfolding refugee crisis and especially the media representation of migrants crossing Europe as a ‘swarm’ or ‘flood.’ I was blown away by the poetry submissions that came in deeply felt but also beautifully crafted. It was a considerable challenge to whittle this down to about 100 poems that spoke to each other thematically. We wanted an array of voices, including those of refugees themselves.”

Another editor, Kathleen Bell, said: “While poets may not be able to solve big problems they do have a role to play in terms of language and narrative, enabling readers to see situations differently. I was aware of WH Auden’s Refugee Blues as a precedent. It seemed that a poetry anthology could do two things simultaneously — tell more varied, nuanced and complex stories and raise money for charities helping refugees.”

This is echoed in Sir Martyn Poliakoff’s introduction: “We are willing to welcome new families into our country so that they too can contribute to our communities as soon as they have over-come their dreadful experiences. Until then, we need to help them.”

“Over Land Over Sea poems for those seeking refuge” is available from Five Leaves Bookshop.

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But One Country, by Rod Duncan

Emma Lee was one of the co-editors for “Over Land Over Sea”. Her most recent poetry collection is “Ghosts in the Desert”. She reviews for The Journal, Sabotage Reviews and London Grip magazines.  

over land over sea cover